What Causes Dry Skin?

While dry skin is mostly annoying (unless you have a skin condition that leads to painful dry skin, which is an entirely different story), it won’t cause you physical harm. With that said, dry facial skin can exacerbate wrinkles, and dry skin on the rest of the body can be itchy and flaky. 

In order to fully understand and treat your dry skin, you need to know what caused it in the first place. This way, you’ll know how to treat your dry skin, and in many cases, prevent it from returning. The more that you understand, the better.

Let’s explore what causes dry skin and all the options you have at your disposal to moisturize and get that glowing skin back on track.

Dry Skin Symptoms 

Suffering from dry skin? Some of the symptoms include patches of redness, skin that flakes off in small or large patches, and deep red or bloody cracks in the skin’s surface. You may also see some peeling in areas that are particularly dry, as well as skin that’s gray in color or feels tight and uncomfortable. Your skin might also feel rough to the touch and even itch in places. If you have one or more of these symptoms, then you have dry skin that you’ll need to treat.

The Causes of Dry Skin 

Let’s cut to the chase! In some cases, your dry skin may be cured simply by changing your habits. In others, the causes are more genetic or condition-based, requiring some additional help in the form of treatments. So, here are some of the most common causes of dry skin, followed by a possible list of methods to help give you the soft, smooth, supple skin of your dreams.

Dry Air 

Did you know that the weather can play a huge role in your dry skin? Very hot, dry climates tend to lead to dry skin. In areas that are more humid and temperate, your skin absorbs moisture from the air, helping it stay soft and preventing it from drying out. However, in the winter when things tend to dry out a lot (despite the snowy conditions), your skin dries out too. Even if you spend most of your time indoors, you still end up with this issue. When the weather warms back up, your skin goes back to normal.

This problem usually occurs when you live in a climate that’s filled with hot, dry air. Desert conditions might be good for some health issues, as the overall heat and lack of moisture prevent things like arthritis flare-ups, but they certainly aren’t good for the skin. Your only options here are either moving to someplace more humid (which isn’t always possible), treating your dry skin to the best of your abilities, or seeing a dermatologist.

Your Laundry Detergent and Soap

We have to stay clean without putting our skin through the wringer, right? Not an easy task. In some cases, soaps, like shower gels, laundry detergents, and more, can cause dry skin to form on the face and body. There are numerous drying ingredients to look for, such as ammonium lauryl sulfate, salicylic acid, sodium laureth sulfate, willow bark, AHA acids, and more. While these are good for people with oily skin who may want to dry things out a bit, they can make already dry skin even worse, or take away necessary moisture from normal skin.

Before you choose your next bottle of body wash or container of laundry detergent, check the ingredient list. If you see any of the ones listed above, it’s best to pick a different kind. In addition, if you want to get rid of your problematic dry skin, you’ll need to switch what you’re using right away. You’ll be surprised at how quickly your skin may rebound once you make that crucial change.


Sometimes, you gotta work with what mama (or daddy) gave ya! When it comes to genetics, there isn’t much that you can about your dry skin. For example, while your skin type may not have been directly passed on, the odds are good that if your mother and grandmother had dry skin, then you will as well.

In other cases, the dry skin might not be passed down from one generation to the next, but it could be something that you were born with. Even though scientists haven’t yet discovered the exact genes that determine skin type, they have come with some great solutions, such as super hydrating moisturizers.

Hot Temperatures 

We know we already covered weather, but now it’s time to focus on hot temperatures in general. How high do you set your furnace in the winter? What’s your ideal water temperature for a shower or bath? If you get cold easily and want those temps set on hot, hot, hot, then you’re going to pay the price: with dry skin. It’s sad but true, especially if you spend a lot of time bathing in hot water.

The hotter the water and air temperature (as we explained in the “weather” section), the drier your skin can become. Thankfully, the solution here is fairly simple – get used to the room being a little colder and your baths and showers slightly cooler. Turning the thermostat down a few degrees and bathing in warm (not hot) water can make a huge difference when it comes to the dryness of your skin.

If you think that this is the problem, make these simple changes and see what happens. If your skin rebounds and changes dramatically, then you’ve solved the mystery of your dry skin.  

Various Skin Conditions 

Although we covered genetics slightly above, more needs to be said about this cause of dry skin. Conditions like psoriasis and eczema cause extremely dry skin that leads to painful peeling and scaling that can leave you feeling self-conscious. These conditions are often genetic as opposed to situational, and they tend to be something that you’re born with.

The reason why we’ve grouped these conditions together? They cause dry skin that’s harsher than usual, so they deserve to be in their own category. Plus, the treatments are different when addressing dry skin from psoriasis and eczema. Slathering an over-the-counter moisturizer on psoriasis or eczema may not do much, so instead, you need to combat them with prescription options.  

Your Age and Lifestyle 

Among the many other causes of dry skin are your overall age and lifestyle choices. As people age, their skin tends to dry out. This is particularly true of women who are going through perimenopause and menopause, but it can happen to any gender. The oils in the skin fade over time, causing dry skin to emerge. Even those who previously had (and hated) oily skin may see some changes in their skin type.

Lifestyle is yet another cause. For example, people who spend a lot of time in a chlorinated pool can end up with dry skin from the constant exposure to chemicals. Your job may play a role as well, especially if you have to wash your hands frequently in order to keep them clean or work constantly with hot water. Health care workers, beauticians, nail technicians, bank tellers, and others who must keep their hands clean often end up with dry, cracked skin on their fingers and hands.

Unlike some of the other situational solutions to dry skin, you can’t do much about your age and lifestyle. So, instead, your best bet is to treat that flaky skin as best you can.

Treating Dry Skin 

If you want to treat your dry skin more quickly than making situational changes will allow, then you have several options, such as:


We’ve all seen rows and rows of them at the store. There is a seemingly endless supply of moisturizers on the market. So, if you want to choose one to help combat your dry skin, luckily, you have many different options. Keep in mind that if you have acne along with dryness, you want a moisturizer that won’t clog pores, so run your potential products through a database designed to break down and classify ingredients.

Wearing Gloves 

Protect those pretty hands of yours. If your dry skin is caused by frequent hand washing and exposure to harsh soaps, then wearing gloves can help.

Seeing a Dermatologist 

In lieu of the other options, you can see a dermatologist to get their opinion on additional treatment options. Dry skin that seems particularly stubborn to treat or is very painful should be checked by an expert. Dermatologists have plenty of prescription products at their disposal and can help you with your dry skin.

In Conclusion

Dry skin can get in the way of living your best life, but the good news is there are various treatment options. It all starts with understanding what caused your dry skin in the first place, so you can pinpoint the best ways to select a treatment that is right for you and your skin. In some cases, like those of situational dry skin, your best option is to remove yourself from the scenario if possible. For example, if your dry skin is caused by showering in hot water, adjust the water temperature slightly and monitor your skin’s reaction.

Although this won’t always solve the problem, you do have many options when it comes to choosing a good treatment to relieve yourself of the dry, flaky, patchy, and itchy skin on your face and body. Start exploring what’s causing your dry skin, and keep loving the skin you’re in!